Shaila Catherine is the founder of Bodhi Courses (bodhicourses.org) an online Dhamma classroom, and Insight Meditation South Bay, a meditation center in Mountain View, California (imsb.org). She has been practicing meditation since 1980, with more than eight years of accumulated silent retreat experience, and has taught since 1996 in the USA, and internationally. Shaila has dedicated several years to studying with masters in India, Nepal and Thailand, completed a one year intensive meditation retreat with the focus on concentration and jhana, and authored Focused and Fearless: A Meditator's Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity, (Wisdom Publications, 2008). She has extensive experience practicing and teaching mindfulness, loving kindness, concentration, and a broad range of approaches to liberating insight. Since 2006, Shaila has continued her study of jhana and insight under the direction of Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw, and authored Wisdom Wide and Deep: A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhana and Vipassana (Wisdom Publications, 2011).
Shaila Catherine gave the sixth talk in a series on Recollective Meditations. This talk explores the practice of devanusatti — contemplating the good qualities that lead to happiness in this life and future lives. This practice emphasizes five specific qualities: faith, virtue, learning, generosity, and wisdom. One first reflects on the superior qualities of the devas, and then contemplates those same qualities within oneself. By contemplating the success of celestial beings, we might realize that success is also possible for us. This practice can inspire us to develop those beautiful qualities of heart and mind.
This is the 4th talk in a 5-part speaker series titled "Balanced Practice." Shaila Catherine explores the compassion of protecting others and the wisdom of protecting oneself through the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness guards the mind and protects the mind from sliding into actions based upon unwholesome tendencies. Mindfulness also protects us from the unmindful actions that could easily cause harm. Mindfulness has a capacity of naturally drawing everything into balance, so the mind progresses with a balance of effort and ease, of tranquility and investigation, and of calm concentrated state and engaged state.
Shaila Catherine gave the fifth talk in a series on Recollective Meditations. This talk describes the recollection of the Sangha, reflecting on the virtues of a community of practitioners at various stages of awakening. This reflection uplifts the mind and reinforces those virtues, which in turn leads to the Path of awakening. When one recollects the Sangha, one's mind is not obsessed by greed, hate, and delusion. In addition, when we are temporarily discouraged in our practice, when we reflect on the Sangha, we can connect with a group of people who have been practicing the Path of awakening for centuries.
This is the first talk in a speaker series titled "Recollective Meditations." Shaila Catherine speaks about the meditation practice known as recollection of the Buddha, Buddhanusati. The practice involves the contemplation of qualities associated with the awakened mind. Each quality highlights a feature that the Buddha brought to perfection — in conduct, virtue, mental development, wisdom, teaching abilities, social influence, and mental powers. The reflection on these virtuous qualities of the Buddha establishes faith, confidence and inspiration for the path, deepens concentration, inhibits hindrances, strengthens joy, and refreshes the mind. It also serves as a classic protection against doubt. By contemplating the accomplishments of the Buddha, we may sense the potential for awakening within our own lives.
This is the first talk in a speaker series titled "Doorways to Insight." Shaila Catherine describes the importance that is placed on recognizing and contemplating impermanence. This is one of the three main characteristics that we observe in insight meditation practices. We see and know that things change. Everything is changing — thoughts, emotions, feelings, perceptions, sensations, tastes, and emotions. But when we don't see the impermanence of things, we tend to grasp and cling to them. We tend to want to make them to last, and thereby we identify and become attached. As a result of attachment, we suffer, because they are changing anyway. Can we see beyond things that change, and realize what is might be called changeless or deathless, to awaken with insight, to realize nibbana?
This is the fifth talk in a speaker series titled "Eight-Fold Path of Awakening." The Buddha said that we should develop concentration, because one who is concentrated understands things as they really are. Concentration is the ground for wisdom to arise. When we concentrate the mind, we learn to steady and strengthen the mind. That concentrated mind has the capacity to see the nature of things more deeply and clearly, leading to liberating insight .
Shaila Catherine discusses how ignorance or delusion is the root of all unwholesome activities. Ignorance is present any time that we fail to see the three characteristics of experience: impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and non-self. The wisdom that develops through insight meditation practice can overcome and uproot even deeply conditioned ignorance. Wisdom helps us to understand suffering and the cause of suffering, and awaken compassion for ourselves and others who suffer due to ignorance.
This is the second talk in a speaker series titled Ethics, Action, and the Five
Precepts. This talk by Shaila Catherine explores kamma (karma) and the training precept to refrain from killing. The Abhidhamma presents a detailed analysis of both wholesome and unwholesome mental states to explain how some actions lead to suffering, and other actions lead to happiness. The conditions that surround an action, the intentions that instigate it, and the reflective understanding of potential consequences will influence the intensity of the patterns that affect our options. If you find that you have killed a living being, perhaps an insect, notice your mental state. Was hatred or greed present? Learn what happens in the mind to enable killing, and what happens in the mind when you refrain from killing. The act of restraint is a particularly potent action. When virtue (sila) is pure, reflections on the abstention from killing can be a source of joy. The potency of wholesome restraint can be increased by reinforcing it with the wisdom that understands the causes and end of suffering—right view of the path.
This talk by Shaila Catherine is the first in a speaker series titled Ethics, Action, and the Five Precepts. It offers an over view of the five precepts (sila) as training tools for bringing mindfulness and restraint into our actions, relationships, and daily life activities. These basic guidelines for living an ethical life, and the power of restraint are as relevant in the modern world as they were in ancient India. Taking care with our actions can be a source of joy and happiness. When our actions are clear, the mind is free from regret, guilt, and remorse; we gain self-respect, self-esteem, and confidence. The four bases of success (iddhipadas) can be used to strengthen these training precepts. With the support of desire, energy, consciousness, and investigation we can fully commit to abstain from unwholesome actions, and develop wholesome states, thereby gaining sovereignty over our own mind.
This is the first talk in a speaker series titled Fundamental Buddhist Principles 2015. Buddha was a human being, whose mind opened to the truth of things, to the nature of life. He understood the causes of suffering, and developed a path of teaching that enables others to realize the truth of things for themselves. He was awakened, which means greed, hatred, and delusion were uprooted from his mind. So when we meditate, we examine our mind with the goal to understand what is really happening in our encounter with experience. What happens in our seeing, hearing, smelling, or tasting? What happens when we feel with our body? What happens when we think or feel emotions? Is that encounter affected by greed, hatred, or delusion? Or are we seeing the nature of these experiences arising and passing away, with a mind free of clinging? This talk also includes basic Buddhist teachings such as the Four Noble Truths, the Three Training (virtue (sila), meditation (samadhi) and wisdom (panna)), and the Three Primary Contemplative Skills that support meditation (concentration, mindfulness, and investigation).